Striker keeps United’s Champions League hopes alive
air bridges for the Champions League remain potentially open for Leicester, after a timely response to their Euro sceptics.
This was the reaction Brendan Rodgers desperately needed and suddenly all those fears over a dramatic late collapse appear premature, with Leicester’s hopes of a top-four finish still very much alive.
After a shocking capitulation at Bournemouth on Sunday, Rodgers was in danger of witnessing a season that promised so much descending into the dampest of squibs. Yet on the day lockdown restrictions were relaxed in the city, the tension was eased at the King Power Stadium.
Ayoze Perez and substitute Demarai Gray provided the crucial goals to secure Rodgers only his second victory since the restart and almost certainly end Sheffield Unitnandes own hopes of gatecrashing the European party.
There was some bad news, with James Maddison, Ben Chilwell and Christian Fuchs ruled out for the season with injuries, but Leicester will now feel reinvigorated ahead of their final two games.
Rodgers said: “It was an outstanding team performance and that was us back for 90 minutes. We needed that reaction, and we’ve got two games to create some more history. At the start of the season we said it would be a huge challenge to get into Europe. It’s a phenomenal achievement to be in this position.”
Leicester’s performance was a reminder that they are in the top four for a reason, despite their recent struggles. They have occupied fourth or above since mid-September and have now completed the double over Sheffield United.
Manager Chris Wilder cut a frustrated figure in the technical area. His own hopes of ending a magnificent campaign with a place in Europe have surely ended after this defeat and they were strangely underwhelming. But their season has been a triumph, whatever happens now.
It was a day of many positives for Leicester, who appear to have cornered the market in young English left-backs. With Chilwell out for the campaign with a heel injury, Rodgers opted for Luke Thomas, the third-youngest debutant in club history at 19 years and 36 days.
Thomas was outstanding, producing an assured performance and providing the 29th-minute assist for Perez, who dispatched a low shot into the bottom corner.
United offered little as an attacking threat before Gray completed a relatively routine win with the second goal, scoring from an angle.
Wilder said: “We were way off of it from the first minute to the 94th.”
Breakthrough: Ayoze Perez opened the scoring in a 2-0 win that keeps Leicester’s Champions League hopes alive